CANCER RESEARCH U.K.
VIRAL ONCOLOGY GROUP
Mark Clements PhD
Lucy Smithers PhD (with Roger Pederson, Cambridge)
Claire Westwood, PhD student
Sonja Vujovic, PhD student
Stem cells have the unique property of being able to self-replicate
whilst retaining the potential to differentiate in to diverse cell
types. This unique property could revolutionise medicine by providing
a wide range of cell types for tissue replacement therapies and
drug discovery. We are currently using a functional genomics approach
to investigate the unique properties of human embryonic stem cells
(hESC) and human bone marrow derived mesenchymal stem cells.
Embryonic stem cells (ESC) are totipotent and thus have the potential
to differentiate to all three germ layers (Figure
1). Mark Clements has developed a series of lentiviral vectors
enabling the manipulation of hESC gene expression. These tools are
being used to direct the differentiation of hESC towards specific
cell types of endothelial origin, as well as being used to elucidate
the mechanisms regulating pluripotency. Lucy Smithers, in collaboration
with Roger Pedersen (Cambridge University) investigates the early
embryonic origins of these cells using a transcriptional profiling
Mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) are derived from the bone marrow and
can be induced to differentiate into mesodermal tissues such as
fat, bone and cartilage (Figure 2).
Claire Westwood, Sonia Vujovic and Mark Clements are using transcriptional
profiling during the early stages of MSC differentiation towards
fat and cartilage (in collaboration with Adrienne Flanagan, Dept.
Pathology) in order to identify novel factors involved in lineage
commitment. We are also exploring the link between MSC and soft
tissue cancers (sarcomas), by probing the effects of specific genetic
alterations involved in the transformation of somatic cells into